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Restaurant size

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Jeremy Osner Oct 5, 1998 03:07 PM

I'm wondering how you all feel about big restaurants.
I've noticed a lot of people writing about USqC,
Gramercy Tavern, Gotham -- When I go into a big dining
room it usually makes me uncomfortable. I ate at USqC
recently and I had a hard time concentrating on the
food.

I greatly prefer to eat at a small restaurant, say
Savoy or La Luncheonette. (This same thing applies to
"ethnic" cuisines: I felt nicer eating at the old
Jackson Diner than the new one, though I'm planning to
give the new location some time to get their kinks
straightened out. And I felt pretty miniscule at Green
Fields.) Some places manage to make a large dining room
feel small, like Jhupdi/Vatan, but this is in my
experience pretty rare. (And Jhupdi/Vatan doesn't have
_that_ big a dining room anyhow.)

Anyway, if I were recommending a restaurant I would
generally go with the smaller ones over the larger.

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  1. g
    Gary Cheong RE: Jeremy Osner Oct 5, 1998 05:44 PM

    What is it about big restaurants that makes you feel
    uncomfortable ? For me, the most important thing is
    the food. Atmosphere, service, noise level, and size
    do play a part in the dining experience, but my main
    focus is the food. If one of those other parts is so
    out of whack as to intrude with the food, then that's
    another story.

    Can you tell what exactly happened around you at your
    dinner at Union Sq. Cafe to take your concentration
    off the food ? Obviously, you should go to places
    where you feel comfortable in ; however, think of what
    wonderful food you may miss because of your discomfort
    in going to a large restaurant. I do hope you find
    some way to overcome this.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Gary Cheong
      j
      Jeremy Osner RE: Gary Cheong Oct 6, 1998 09:25 AM

      No, I can't tell just what it was at USqC that kept me
      from concentrating on the food -- I don't exactly know.
      I guess I react more strongly than you to the non-food
      elements of the dining experience; I think for me, the
      food is like 60 or 70% of what I remember about the
      restaurant. And in the case of Union Square, the food
      was much less, perhaps 30% of what I remembered,
      because I had such a negative reaction to the place.
      (The service was good though.)

      I mean, a restaurant's food has to be good for me to
      like the restaurant; but I am much more able to
      appreciate the good food and to remember it, if I am in
      a comfortable space and feel relaxed. At Union Square I
      felt uncomfortable and tense, and I associated that
      with the bigness of the space, but I cannot explain
      exactly why.

      1. re: Jeremy Osner
        g
        Gary Cheong RE: Jeremy Osner Oct 6, 1998 05:55 PM

        Hmnn... what other large restaurants have you been to?
        And did you get the same reaction as you did at union
        Sq. Cafe ?

        1. re: Gary Cheong
          j
          Jeremy Osner RE: Gary Cheong Oct 7, 1998 10:16 AM

          Well, I'm just trying to think about that... The first
          one that comes to mind is (much larger) Green Fields,
          where yes, I had a similar reaction, allowing for the
          fact that the atmosphere there is very different. I
          can't think of any others right off the top of my head.
          I guess this calls for further experimentation -- my
          room for experimentation is limited by my budget, which
          does not allow for dining out at expensive restaurants
          very frequently.

          Next time I get a chance to dine out at a large
          expensive restaurant, I will pay attention to how the
          space is affecting me, and will report back.

          Jeremy

          1. re: Jeremy Osner
            j
            Janet Traub RE: Jeremy Osner Oct 12, 1998 12:52 AM

            Jeremy,

            Have you ever tried Le Gigot in the Village on Cornelia
            St? 12 or so tables, small bar. I think you'd love it.
            I sure did last Saturday night. Wonderful cozy
            atmosphere, and terrific french home-cooking. Loved
            everything we had, in order of pref: the ginger creme
            brulee; lamb shank with roasted rutabega, potatoes,
            aspargus; roasted chicken with potato gratin.

            Janet

            1. re: Janet Traub
              j
              Jeremy Osner RE: Janet Traub Oct 12, 1998 09:23 AM

              You know, I (who love leg of lamb) went looking for Le
              Gigot one night last summer, and couldn't find it. For
              some reason I thought it was on Horatio Street. Thanks
              for reminding me, that's a restaurant I want to visit.

    2. d
      Dave Feldman RE: Jeremy Osner Oct 5, 1998 11:42 PM

      I'm much more affected by how much room *I* have than the size of the room. When I feel cramped, I'm not happy, so the nice spacing at Gramercy Tavern make the place very non-oppressive to me.

      I'm wondering if you might be reacting to the noise levels of many big places. What's the use of going out with friends to Mesa Grill when you can't hear them?

      DF

      1. s
        Steven Shaw RE: Jeremy Osner Oct 6, 1998 12:06 AM

        I'm somewhat, if not entirely, sympathetic. It sounds
        as though there are elements of reality and elements
        of perception in your analysis of the places that you
        identify as large restaurants. Gramercy Tavern is
        arguably a large restaurant, but the individual dining
        rooms are fairly small--about 10 tables in each. It is
        possible to have a small restaurant experience by
        sitting upstairs at Union Square Cafe (although I
        prefer downstairs). Perhaps the difficulty you had in
        concentrating on the food at Union Square Cafe had to
        do with the fact that the food is not particularly
        interesting. Certainly, neither of those places is
        large compared to Green Fields or Master Grill
        International, where you're talking upwards of 1000
        seats.

        It seems to me that the amount of space is less
        important than the way the space is utilized.

        The best argument for a small restaurant, in my
        opinion, is that the kitchen can prepare more
        sophisticated cuisine. This has always been the secret
        at Lespinasse (74 seats) and Les Celebrites (even
        fewer). Chefs at larger restaurants have told me that
        they envy the smaller places because they can lavish
        so much attention on each dish.

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